Popular newspaper puzzle / THU 7-26-18 / "It wasn't me" / Cirque du Soleil performers / Mystery novelist Cross / Singers Nina and Lisa / R&B singer Khan

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Constructor: Nate Cardin

Relative difficulty: 7:36 (Thursday average: 13:39; Thursday best: 5:14)

THEME: # — What kids today call a [70A: With 71-Across, symbol used four times in this puzzle with four different meanings; 71A: See 71-Across]: HASH TAG

Word of the Day: OCTOTHORPE (54A: Numerical prefix ... or, with 62-Across, another name for this puzzle's key symbol; 62A: Olympian Jim or Ian) —
Most scholars believe the word was invented by workers at the Bell Telephone Laboratories by 1968, who needed a word for the symbol on the telephone keypad. Don MacPherson is said to have created the word by combining octo and the last name of Jim Thorpe, an Olympic medalist. Howard Eby and Lauren Asplund claim to have invented the word as a joke in 1964, combining octo with the syllable therp which, because of the "th" digraph, was hard to pronounce in different languages. The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, 1991, has a long article that is consistent with Doug Kerr's essay, which says "octotherp" was the original spelling, and that the word arose in the 1960s among telephone engineers as a joke. Other hypotheses for the origin of the word include the last name of James Oglethorpe, or using the Old English word for village, thorp, because the symbol looks like a village surrounded by eight fields. The word was popularized within and outside Bell Labs. The first appearance of "octothorp" in a US patent is in a 1973 filing. This patent also refers to the six-pointed asterisk (✻) used on telephone buttons as a "sextile." (Wikipedia)
• • •

I am so happy to blog the New York Times crossword debut of my dear friend Nate Cardin! Nate has had puzzles in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the AV Club (with Paolo Pasco), and as a guest constructor for Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest. He is also the editor of Queer Qrosswords -- which, if you don't have yet, follow the link to make a donation of $10 or more and get 22 puzzles by awesome constructors, many of whom debuted in the collection. Full disclosure: Nate had shared this theme idea with me some time ago. It's very common for constructors to share ideas and early drafts of puzzles with friends (and I have found the crossword community to be enormously generous with time and support). Though I hadn't seen this puzzle since it was submitted (and edited), with that advance knowledge my time is likely faster than a Thursday average.

Theme answers:
  • [1D: A.T.M. necessity]/[20A: Accountant]: PIN #/# CRUNCHER (# = number)
  • [26D: Place to get a rescue animal]/[41A: Dessert made primarily of flour, butter, eggs and sugar]: DOG #/# CAKE (# = pound)
  • [27D: Far parts of the universe]/[48A: Astronauts' workplace]: DEEP #/# STATION (# = space)
  • [36D: Finely honed]/[57A: Deadeyes]: RAZOR #/# SHOOTERS (# = sharp)
This is a very Thursday theme, in that is has a gimmick: solvers are expected to intuit that they should enter a symbol rather than rebus the letters (i.e. cram more than one into a square) for the shared words in the themers. I suppose I knew, but hadn't really reflected upon the potential of, the fact that # can stand for four different words in different contexts. It has only come to be referred to as a hashtag since its widespread use on Twitter starting about a decade ago (for a library-science lecture about the hashtag as metadata in social networking folksonomies, slide into my DMs). As we expect on a Thursday, the fill has strengths and weaknesses to accommodate some trickery; I'm not entirely sure that [66A: Plow and plant again]: REFARM is a thing, and ESTE EMIT ETON ETATS EATER. AMGEN? I don't know that I would've been able to make this grid any cleaner, but the theme concept is so strong that frankly, dear readers, I don't give A DAMN [31D: What Rhett Butler didn't give].

Brandi Carlisle sings about [27A: "It wasn't me," for one]: DENIAL

  • [5D: Stone-capturing board game]: MANCALA — I remember playing this at my open-classroom hippie/alternative elementary school. Apparently it has been played for millennia, across dozens of cultures.
  • [46D: Mother-and-daughter singers Nina and Lisa]: SIMONES — Lisa has sung on Broadway, originating the title role in the crossword-friendly musical Aida, as well as roles in Rent and Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • [53D: R&B singer Khan]: CHAKA — Chaka Khan sang for a decade with Rufus, had a number of hits, broke into disco with "I'm Every Woman," then scored a crossover pop hit in 1984 with "I Feel for You," a cover of a 1979 song by the artist formerly and futurely known as Prince.  
  • [61D: Make out, in Manchester]: SNOG — This may be utter shite, but some Brit once told me in a pub that in the UK they had to change the name of the second Austin Powers film to The Spy Who Snogged Me because shag is a far dirtier word over there than it is here.
  • [8A: Popular newspaper puzzle]: JUMBLE — What, you thought it would be CROSSWORD? Crossword puzzles are not popular. I mean, this post will probably get barely 10,000 hits.
Signed, Laura, Sorceress of CrossWorld

[Follow Laura on Twitter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Melrose 12:25 AM  

A little too easy for a Thursday, or maybe I was just lucky and got the theme right off? Fight me!

puzzlehoarder 12:28 AM  

After a couple of late week difficult puzzles on Tuesday and Wednesday, we get a Wednesday easy one on Thursday.

Friday is going to be tough for me to comment on. I'm having my left knee replaced tomorrow.

Tuesday was my last day in the firehouse. Today I took all my old puzzles and put them in the recycling bin.

mathgent 12:31 AM  

Happy to be reminded of the many meanings of #. I just learned that it can mean "space" in editing. In mathematics, it means "cardinality," as in the cardinality of a set. # {a, b, c} = 3.

I also learned that it is called an octothorpe.

But that''s all the good I can say about the puzzle. No crunch, no sparkle, no fun.

Harryp 12:36 AM  

A Rebus Thursday. I whipped through this puzzle, and when finished, the (number), (space), (pound) and (sharp) entries were automatically replaced by the # sign. Only then did I realize that the # sign could substitute all of the above entries. Pretty nice concept. Half my Thursday time, but a good effort by Nate Cardin.

Maxine Nerdström 12:38 AM  



other than that, enjoyed it. felt easier than Tuesday.

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

‘PIN#’ is a bit redundant, as the N stands for number, but I’ll allow it. I’ll allow it. Carry on. Good puz, y’all.

Larry Gilstrap 1:08 AM  

I'm addicted to Twitter, although I'm not entirely sure how it works. And the whole HASH TAG thing is often nonsense to me. I follow some very cool and influential people and they respond to my comments. Of course, the occasional sh*t blizzard happens, unless you are careful to not dig too deeply or take it personally.

So much to talk about in this rich puzzle, but I will spare you. I knew # as a symbol for POUND and NUMBER, kinda knew SHARP, but SPACE and OCTOTHORPE were new ones on me. Live and learn.

Ever hear someone reflect on their life and declare, "No regrets!"? I'm guessing that many of us would prefer to REDACT some paragraphs, but you do you.

Soulful section down south with CHAKA Kahn/the SIMONES. "Tell Me Something Good" would be to listen to Nina sing "I Loves You Porgy." Or, just about anything else from those folks.

Teaching the same group of kids five times a week for a semester, at least, I felt the need to break it up and make Friday a special day. God knows it was special for me. Sure, we had tests and lesson culminating activities, but I always tried to make time for a game. MADLIBs fit the bill, and in case a suit from the Dept. of EDUC walked in, we were reviewing parts of speech.

TomAz 1:15 AM  

I spelled the words out, as rebuses, and the website accepted it. Changed it to hashes when I was done, though.

This played superfast for a Thursday for me -- a few seconds over 10 minutes, which is closer to my record Thursday time than my average. This despite typing out the rebuses and also never having heard of OCTOTHORPE. (It was easy from the crosses though). OCTOTHORPE is apparently a 60s Bell Labs coinage when they were busy inventing push button phones. They called the star key a SEXTILE. Imagine the puzzle possibilities there.

The rest of the puzzle was filled either with things I knew and dropped in, or could infer pretty quickly. I was unfamiliar with # meaning 'space', but since I was typing in rebuses it didn't matter. When I cottoned the theme -- at 'sharp' -- I just figured 'space' was a use of # I didn't know. Which it was.

More than a few cringe moments though. RSTU next to III is inelegant to say the least. REFARM is ugly. 6 partials by my count (the five clues with ____ in them, plus PRE). I might not have even noticed all the partials if it weren't for RSTU.

I DUNNO, I'd give this a C+ maybe? Clever theme, intuitive fill, no 'who?' actors.. but.. plenty of winces.

jae 1:15 AM  

Easy. I caught the # theme immediately at 1d and realized it was going to be different meanings at 26d. No real problems except not knowing the “space”/OCTOTHORPE meaning (i.e. I learned something, thank you Laura).

Pretty good Thurs., liked it.

Graham 2:12 AM  

My first 8A answer was KENKEN, because Will Shortz seems to be such a fan; I figured he’d clue it that way.

Ginny 3:05 AM  

I enjoyed the winking clue for 22A.

Pete S 5:12 AM  

I'm a little stumped by "Where to find an average joe?" URN (Got it with the crosses, cue: I DUNNO, C'MON)

Razorsharp solvers with explanations much appreciated!

kodak jenkins 5:18 AM  

Nice little puzzle though I wish it'd been a little harder. The theme was clever but not very challenging so this was a personal best Thursday and felt like a Tuesday.

Yay: #CRUNCHER (love this phrase)

Conrad 5:20 AM  

@puzzlehoarder -- Best wishes on your knee replacement. I'm not there myself (yet) but several friends my (our?) age have had them and they're all very happy they did.

@Maxine and Anon 12:40: Yes, "PIN Number" (or "PIN#") is redundant, but for that matter so is ATM. It should be AT or TM.

Conrad 5:21 AM  

@Pete: Think of "joe" as a synonym for "coffee". Coffee from an urn is usually just average.

Eliza 5:27 AM  

When have you ever had anything other than average (or below average) coffee from an urn?

TonySaratoga 6:03 AM  

Because nobody, not even you, calls it a “PI number.”

Lewis 6:10 AM  

It's a tight theme and clever theme idea. It's also ambitious -- I count a whopping 66 theme-related squares. Do you leave out OCTOTHORPE and HASH TAG to make the grid cleaner and more elegant, or do you keep them in because the former is interesting/quirky and the latter because there would have been an outcry over it's absence? I for one am glad those two answers were included.

Nice clues for URN and AGE, and a few more clever clues would have sparked this puzzle up, IMO. Two random thoughts:

* ASANA is pronounced with its first syllable emphasized, not the second, as many do.
* The DOO DAH parade is a Pasadena tradition that started a wacky alternative to the staid Rose Bowl parade. It has featured entrants such as The Shopping Cart Drill Team and the 20-Man Memorial Invisible Man Marching Drill Team. It has spread to other cities and the Wikipedia article on it is a fun read.

BarbieBarbie 6:26 AM  

Not a good Thursday for me. The theme was cute but the only tricky thing about it was figuring out whether my app wanted a rebus or the symbol. Obvious after the second one. The fill was faintly Maleskan, and so easy that I missed seeing some of the clues, which is normal on a Monday but not at all normal on a Thursday. I’m disappointed.

@puzzlehoarder, it must have been gut-wrenching unhoarding your puzzles. That one sentence said a world. Good luck with your knee and also outside the firehouse.

joebloggs 6:26 AM  

Never saw # represent SPACE. Is this an editor thing?

QuasiMojo 6:27 AM  

I got the gimmick with the PIN thing. I typed in NUMBER etc as I did for all the clues that used a HASH TAG. But then I changed it later to the symbol. What's next? Corned Beef?

I can't say I enjoyed doing it, but I'm happy that we're getting some new constructors into the mix.

I do cry foul at SIMONES as clued. Their name IS Simone. Unless you clue it as THE Simones, it's just wrong.

Anonymous 6:34 AM  

Easy for a Thursday, especially because this concept has been
used in NYT before #beentheredonethat


mmorgan 6:39 AM  

Good puzzle, somehow got the # idea right away. But PIN number is right up there with ATM machine. And yes, people do say both.

Erin Hollander 6:45 AM  

I think this is a reference to the mediocre coffee often served at catered events, from an urn. Not being a coffee drinker myself, I’m just assuming that catered coffee would be very average.

Z 6:48 AM  

RSTU and III??? WTF?

Other than that I mostly liked this. I do give the puzzle another demerit for the mini-puzzles locked away in the NE and SW. No puzzle should ever have symmetrical uvulas, dangling there making us wonder what the heck the dang things are for.

My first thought was KenKen, too, since there's one sitting there right next to the puzzle in my paper, but JAR JAR B'NAI quickly verified my wisdom in checking the crosses before PENning in an error. Worked down the east coast, saw the DOG(Pound)CAKE and lazily wrote in "#" rather than try to cram in five teeny tiny letters into a single grid square. Continued down and saw that, Aha!, # was the desired symbol. Since I so serendipitously got it right from the get go I'm declaring everyone who finished with letters in the grid a technical DNF.* Worked clockwise then to the middle. That "Yellow or gray" clue had me befuddled through two runnings of the alphabet before I finally grokked how AGE worked. That G was my last letter in.

@Larry Gilstrap - I find muting stupid and blocking trolls and bots makes Twitter a friendlier place. The number of irony and sarcasm-impaired folk who will take a thread sideways is always amazing to me. I follow one historian (a moderate conservative in a rational world) who has locked his tweets so they cannot be retweeted. One can comment, but the hordes are kept in blissful ignorance since only his own followers see his tweets.

@Pete S - File this one away. Joe=coffee is a crossword clue misdirection staple.

*Look - I know I've been gone but if you take comments like this seriously you're going to be really unhappy reading my comments.

Alexander 6:49 AM  

Not “PI number”, however people do [should] just call it a “PIN”

Erin Hollander 6:50 AM  

New Thursday record for me! Got the theme immediately, and I NEVER get the theme immediately, so that was pretty exciting.

I used to work as a contractor at Amgen and I live in the town where it’s headquartered, so that was a gimme for me, though I probably would have assumed they were going for some other pharma company if I didn’t already have the AM in place.

Knew the word OCTOTHORPE, which was handy since I did NOT know Ian Thorpe, nor would Jim Thorpe immediately have sprung to mind.

Unknown 6:51 AM  

Coming from Texas, I was amused to see 1 Across PEN juxtaposed with 1Down PIN# since many in my home state pronounce those words exactly the same. A Texas homonym!

crabsofsteel 6:54 AM  


Mickey Bell 6:57 AM  

The acronym PIN:


I object to the use of the word “number” when one invokes the PIN acronym. It’s like saying, “I’m in the CIA Agency,” or, “Belgium is in the EU Union.”

Just say PIN.

May have made the fill more difficult to assemble but using a word IN an acronym before or after an acronym just is so redundant and annoying.

Other than that I enjoyed the puzzle a lot.

Z 7:01 AM  

Regarding URN and average joe - URNs work by applying heat to keep the coffee warm. Imagine a tasty medium rare steak that has been sitting on a warmer for an hour or three. Not so tasty anymore. URNs do the same thing to coffee. This is also the reason Starbucks and other coffee purveyors move to pour-overs later in the day. They don't want to serve good coffee that's been turned to burnt tar.

Jamie C 7:01 AM  

27 across should have been a musical clue...

27 across

Anonymous 7:02 AM  

The Harpers magazine monthly puzzle a few years ago used words like octothorpe as a theme - IIRC it had octothorpe, ampersand, asterisk, etc.

Hungry Mother 7:02 AM  

Hardest part of the puzzle today was spelling NUISANCE correctly. I wanted an “e” in there, in spite of the cross. I got a good laugh at myself out of it, always a good start to the day.

Unknown 7:05 AM  

Pin # is a redundancy. That actually reds as personal identification number number

JJK 7:06 AM  

I enjoyed this although it was super easy, especially for a Thursday. Fun to have a symbol rebus rather than a letter rebus. I think PIN number is ok because although technically redundant, it is something people say. I didn’t know the hashtag (which I always thought of as “ the pound sign”, not being of the twitter generation) could mean space.

kitshef 7:18 AM  

Comically easy – could have run on a Monday and not been out of place.

Space is such an esoteric use of # that it probably should have been left out. Remove the second revealer (HASH TAG) and instead do a HASH rebus (e.g. hash brownie crossing rehash).

ncmathsadist 7:25 AM  

We old-line C programmers know it primarily as a pound sign. The preprocessor directive


is called a pound-include. It causes the file stdio.h to be read into your program.

FLAC 7:30 AM  

Back in the day, when newspapers really were made of paper, copy editors used # to signify a space between words. # could also substitute for “30” to signify the end of a story.

I’m with Laura on the puzzle. The clever theme outweighed the dreck. I wish the # squares had been symmetrical, but that’s probably too much to ask.

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

So much fun...but easy .....
Nice change of pace......

michiganman 7:40 AM  

Loved/hated this one. I usually don't like gimmicks (hated double helix the other day) but actually enjoyed this. The # represented real words so I think that's OK. Getting the trick fairly early made all the difference with respect to difficulty. The hate: I held my nose while entering REFARM, IDUNNO, and CMON. Other drek included too many abbreviations. PIN # is of course redundant as the N stands for number. Other fill was straightforward with a few obscurities (for me). I Liked SNOG and always enjoy SMEE. The themes were mostly crisp, especially since each # had two entries. For some reason it's fun to know OCTOTHORPE. Who knew?

Taffy-Kun 7:40 AM  

Laura: yes, SHAG is a non-euphemism (nophemism?) for ##UK in the UK. Best avoided there.

pabloinnh 7:46 AM  

I'm with @kitshef, never saw # used to indicate "space". Since it was obviously a rebus puzzle, I just left that square blank. Nice blank space for DEEPSPACE and SPACESTATION. Made sense to me.

Yeah, ATM machine, PIN number. I don't like MLB Baseball either, but there they are, and not much can be done. Not as annoying as those apostrophe plurals (plural's).

Over too fast for a Thursday, but otherwise fine.

Dr. R 7:47 AM  

Lower case joe = coffee. Get it from a coffee urn.

ghthree 7:50 AM  

As a NYTimes reader, I had SUDOKU for 8A, but MADLIB and BNAI (both gimmees) set me straight. I thought it was a rebus until reading 70A and 71A. Never heard of CHAKA, SIMONES, MANCALA, or OCTOTHORPE, but got them from crosses.

Odd Sock 7:55 AM  

If you don't do Twitter then there isn't much of a point to this one.
I vote to redact refarm. Even spell-check doesn't like it.
Actually this was dull as a butter knife.
Razor-sharp it ain't.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

# for space is a common editorial notation, although you wouldn't see it much these days because most editing is done on computers instead of paper. An editor would use it, for example, if the writer wrote hotdog and the editor wants hot dog, or if the writer accidentally left out the space after a period.

btgrover 7:57 AM  

A breeze for a Thursday, oh man Rex would have hated this one.

Phipps44 8:13 AM  

good luck with the knee! Two of my friends have had replacements and and are back running again! I may be next.

Wm. C. 8:14 AM  

@Puzzlehoarder -- in re: your upcoming knee replacement ...

Years ago I wrenche,d my knee while searching for my golf ball in the woods, stepped in some kind of rabbit hole and fell forward. Initially I thought the soreness would subside in a day or two, but when it didn't I decided I could live with it. After a couple years of discomfort I finally decided to have it replaced. Voila, no pain!

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

If only all Mondays were this good and challenging.

Andrea 8:45 AM  

Fun fact: in Mexico we also call this # a “gato”, as in tic-tac-toe game.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

Dog#? Come on, where would one get a kitten? Same place. The#, maybe.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Sharp sign and “hash tag” symbol are not the same. Sharp sign leans to the left and predates the octothorpe by hundreds of years.

GILL I. 9:21 AM  

This would have been a decent Wednesday puzzle....maybe even Tuesday.
Flew through. Saw the rebus immediately at PEN/PIN. Don't do Twitter, don't know a HASH TAG from a SHIT TZU and never heard of an OCTO THORPE.
Even so, it has its charms. Throw out the ugly RSTU III ITO NO TAT RATA and the rest is serviceable.
I had a few ???? with the URN clue. I usually Hone In on those cutesy clues. All I kept thinking about was that poor average Joe and his ashes sitting in the URN that sits atop the fireplace mantel.
Being reminded of the SIMONES is always smile inducing. Lets see...anything else? Nope.
I solve on paper. I can't imagine any other way. I need to hold that dead tree with me. Write a few things on the side; put it down to get some coffee. I tried (once) to solve on my iPad. FAIL. Not fun. When there is a rebus, I just fill in the needed word in tiny little letters. I don't need bells and whistles to tell me I was successful. I never time myself; I don't have the time. To each his own and all that.
@puzzlehoarder....best of luck with your surgery. Are you retiring from the firehouse? If so, ENJOY!
Speaking of....@Mohair (If you happen to be reading), I sent you a message last night. I hope you post today.

Nancy 9:26 AM  

OCTOTHORPE????? You could have knocked me over with a feather when I came here and saw that. I didn't read the 54A clue carefully, and thought that OCTO alone was the other name for the # symbol. I also didn't know that # means SPACE in some contexts. I did know that it means NUMBER and SHARP. I didn't think initially of POUND, but it came back to me after both DOG and CAKE were filled in.

But MANCALA???? Laura says that it's been "played for millennia across dozens of cultures. Yet somehow it missed me.

A fun theme, nicely executed. Also an interesting and helpful overview from Laura. Enjoyed it.

kliges 9:28 AM  

Nothing to do with the puzzle itself, but the title role of "Aida" was originated by Tony winning Heather Headley.

Blue Stater 9:29 AM  

I got this in pretty good time for me (I just can't do gimmicky puzzles, which I regard as an unhappy departure from the real thing), so I suppose I shouldn't complain, but I will. REFARM is not a word. Not. A. Word. Not in the sense proposed, or anything like it. As I have written many times before, if these puzzles were put through a real editing process, howlers like this would not see the light of day.

SJ Austin 9:45 AM  

Glad to know I'm not alone about PIN number. I would pay $5 right now to read what Rex would have written about that. 🙂

I didn't enter the # sign in the rebus squares, but it gave me credit for entering the actual words.

RooMonster 9:48 AM  

Hey All !
Haven't heard of # referring to either SPACE or SHARP. But that's just me being ignorant. Plenty of that here. :-)

Saw a jokey picture on the internet (now don't get mad at me, I saw it, didn't come up with it) that said, "For years, the # symbol has meant Pound, so perhaps you shouldn't have named your movement #MeToo."

That aside, this was an OK puz, maybe flip YesterPuz with todays. I DUNNO. :-) Closed NE and SW corners. As bad as REFARM is, it provides the one lone F in the puz.

AMGEN was a WOE. I actually don't mind alphabet runs. Symmetrical IDO and ITO. And SMEE SHIH.

"Please enter your PIN number in the ATM machine." Har. Oh, did anyone mention they were redundant? ;-)


Anonymous 9:54 AM  

The N in PIN stands for ‘Number’ so saying ‘PIN Number’ is redundant, can’t believe nobody else noticed this yet.

BobL 9:56 AM  

A lot of you are redundant

Unknown 9:56 AM  

I finished with AMGEN but still don't understand yellow and gray AGE. I'm sure I'm missing something very simple.

Nancy 10:04 AM  

@puzzlehoarder -- I wish you the very best of luck with the knee surgery. Since so many of my friends are tennis players, I know an inordinate number of people who've had it done. Almost all of them, regardless of age or gender, are back to playing tennis again, many of them running like gazelles in their 70s. (They're in their 70s, not the gazelles.) And it sounds as though your firefighter area/city is about to suffer a really big loss.

@GILL (9:21) -- Love how your mind works, gal! I'm still laughing over that poor average Joe with his ashes in the URN. Must say that such an image never once occurred to me.

Small confession: I'm someone who always says: "Do you need my PIN number?" Will I now correct -- now that 57 people on the blog today have explained just how wrong the phrase is? Let me be completely # with you and say: No, I'm quite sure I won't.

Bob Mills 10:11 AM  

Since when does a hashtag represent "SHARP" or "SPACE"???? Yellow and gray, when used as verbs, are OK for "AGE" (verb).

Unknown 10:22 AM  

Paper grows yellow as it ages, while human hairdos go gray. Both verbable. I think.

Unknown 10:25 AM  

Strangely for a sleepy 7 am solve, this is somehow my new Thursday record. Not sure what this says for me every other week, but I liked it.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Yes, could someone explain this yellow gray clue meaning age. I did not get that either

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Was it KENKEN? No. SODOKU? No. REEBUS? No! It was JUMBLE!! #EasiestThursdayEver

G. Weissman 10:27 AM  

Puzzle is easier than yesterday’s, but fun. Nice write up, Laura!

'merican back in Paris 10:27 AM  

I surprised myself and managed to finish this one in the same time as yesterday's. I found the NE to be particularly tough. Never heard of MADLIB before.

I guess I found theme clever enough, but like others at first was thrown by SPACE. However, upon reflection, I recalled that often the ends of URLs for, say, newspaper articles contain a lot of #s. To indicate spaces in the article's name?

Interesting to learn that others who solve electronically are getting cool special effects. I solve on an iPad and I DO NOT (AT). Oh well.

I had AUto before AUDI at 24A, and wanted to call foul. But I looked up the latest sales stats for Germany, and AUDIs came in at #3, after VW (slogan: "Volkswagen: Change Is In The Air") and Mercedes. So, I s'pose, that's close enough for government work.

Would be interesting to construct a similar puzzle based on the slash ( / ) rather than the HASH TAG. It has now become the universal conjunction and punctuation mark (unfortunately, IMHO) -- on top of serving as a break in poetry lines, and to indicate ratios and fractions and fiscal years -- so it would be a real challenge to squeeze in all of its possible current meanings. But it would, at least, provide @chefwen with a rebus-fest.

-- signed, the man from l'ETATS Unis

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

OK guys settle down about PIN #. Everybody says that. But who ever, where uses # for space? Where where where is that a thing! Explain, please!

Warren Howie Hughes 10:40 AM  

Quite Frankly, Rex, Your "I don't give a damn" Rhetts right up there with with the best quotes of "Another Day!"

Gulliver Foyle 10:44 AM  

There's even a term for pin number, ATM machine, MLB baseball, etc.: RAS syndrome ("RAS" standing for "redundant acronym syndrome").

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

Loved the puzzle but 1 down was problematic. You see, the N in PIN stands for number, so adding the # sign was redundant. I just hope my good friend Bob Simon gets this message on his way to his anger management class. Also, I'm sending him a dictionary. He really ought to know what rant means.

Unknown 10:52 AM  

Thanks Bob Mills and R K Beatrice

Yellow and gray as verbs. Doh! Sometimes the obvious just escapes me.

Ellen S 10:54 AM  

Fun puzzle (thanks @Nate) and fun blog post (thanks @Laura). I was embarrassed that after years of graphic production training, including learning bunches of arcane copy editing marks (put a wiggly line under word to indicate italics ... I think) I had never seen what we used to call the “hash mark” used to indicate a space. Pound, sure. Sharp, sure. Number, of course. So I learned something useless (plus Octothorpe, the ultimate in useless knowledge) and had a good time, can’t ask for better than that.

Joseph Michael 10:59 AM  

Good luck tomorrow, @puzzlehoarder. Hope everything goes well and you are literally back on your feet again soon!

Blue Stater 10:59 AM  

@Bob Mills: A hashtag represents SHARP in musical notation, for example "C# Minor," C Sharp Minor.

Hungry Mother 11:00 AM  

@John Morrison: nice to know that another C programmer is here. I was at Duke, on sabbatical leave in the Computer Science Department, in 1977. They had just been gifted a DEC PDP11 with a slew of CRT terminals. Some of the grad students there were developers of the “uu” inter-computer communication protools. They convinced me to move out of Fortran to C. Years later, when I was coach of a programming team, I had them learn it and use it in competitions.

old timer 11:02 AM  

Always nice to see you, @'merican! When I was in 9th grade most of my friends started French and for a while delighted in saying lays ay tazoonees.

I found the puzzle both easy and amusing, though like many of you I had no idea that # stood for space.

Ellen S 11:08 AM  

@Z, I think Starbucks coffee tastes like burnt tar from the get-go. Somehow Peet’s and the smaller chains or indies manage to make a good cup of joe. McDonald’s is pretty good, and they have a senior discount.

Joseph Michael 11:25 AM  

“DENIAL ain’t just a river in Egypt.”
— Mark Twain

# (as in sharp) puzzle, Nate. Loved the theme concept and learning the word OCTOTHORPE which I will attempt to work into a conversation sometime later today. Interesting how one little symbol can have so many names and meanings.

Yes, there is a lot of crosswordese and the irksome repetition of I DO, I TO, I DUNNO, and III, but I agree with Laura that the charm of the puzzle outweighs these drawbacks.

How times change. The Legion of Decency once condemned the movie “Gone With the Wind” because of Rhett Butler’s utterance of the word DAMN. Now it’s just another crossword puzzle entry in a daily newspaper.

Congrats on the NYT debut.

AW 11:32 AM  

Boy do I agree with you! I hate it when words are sacrificed to accommodate grid tricks (leaving you with drek like RSTU and the egregious REFARM [says no one, ever]). C'mon: it's a crossWORD puzzle!

jberg 11:43 AM  

Fun puzzle, but enough has been said there already, so a few specifics:

Thanks, @mathgent, for explaining the # = space thing, new to me. (And everyone complaining about it -- mathgent explained it in the third comment. I DUNNO, but you might want to check the comments before posting a question.)

And thanks @Gill, I concur with @Nancy that your image of Average Joe's ashes resting on you mantelpiece (or wherever) is wonderful.

I didn't know OCTOTHORPE either, natch, but since the two parts were clued separately, nothing to complain about there -- just a nice little educational experience.

Bigger educational experience: I thought both prone and SUPINE meant lying down rather than sitting or standing -- only after looking it up to support my complaint did I learn that the first means lying face down, the other face up.

I put in sUdoku at 8A, but I hadn't gone low enough. Sigh.

Is SHIH-tzu the philosopher of dogdom?

Thanks to Nate Cardin, and to Laura.

Banana Diaquiri 11:48 AM  

FWIW, the # is standard HTML for an anchor, which means #Foo go to the place named Foo. very modern, but Twits stole for their own porpoises.

tkincher 11:58 AM  

Admittedly, I've been doing a lot of puzzles the last few days, but this is the third time I've come across CHAKA Khan this week (I think the other two were in the AvX crossword and in a Games magazine puzzle).

Whatsername 12:04 PM  

I love a tricky Thursday and appreciated the theme but would have liked it a lot better had I not still been smarting from the Tuesday torture session. In my opinion as far as difficulty, the two could have been switched as that was a total fail for me and this was terribly easy for a Thursday. Aside from that, one comment : I grew up on a farm and have spent much of my life around farming communities and farmers. I can say with absolute confidence that “I think I’ll go REFARM that field” has been said by no farmer ever.

@GILL, I also had a fleeting image of an urn full of ashes before the “joe” part of that clue sunk in. LOL. I share your love of paper puzzles and never do I time myself. Who needs the pressure? There’s something comforting about taking the time to savor the words on paper. For the same reason, I eschew E-readers and stubbornly cling to my bound hardback books. In either case, settling down with a cup of coffee on the patio or in front of the fireplace just wouldn’t be the same.

Mary McCarty 12:16 PM  

Warning to all you checking the definition of OCTOTHORPE: don’t check the Urban Dictionary; definitely NSFW (or anywhere, anyplace.) So this comment probably won’t make it into the blog. Pity; it’s sitting there so close to SNOG.

'merican in Paris 12:32 PM  

Speaking of redundancy, how many of you recall the Firesign Theater and its Department of Redundancy Department?

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

Hate gift, gifted, gifting. What's wrong with give, gave, given?

Joe Bleaux 12:36 PM  

@Nancy, Guess who came to mind when I filled out 20A 😏. (And no, there wasn't much for a Thursday, was there?)

Joe Bleaux 12:39 PM  

Ah, yes, the old RAS syndrome ...

cwf 12:39 PM  

Here is a nice 99%invisible episode on the history of the OCTOTHORPE.

Proper Noun 12:48 PM  

@Z: I'd be grateful if you'd go to today's WSJ puzzle and calculate your patented PPP rating. It has to be one of the highest ever.

Teedmn 1:09 PM  

I'm amazed I finished this puzzle successfully - there were key things I had no idea about - AMANDA Cross next to MANCALA, AMGEN. I had _R_ING in at 35A and not knowing MANCALA or AMGEN held me up for a while but I finally had inspiration on ARMING.

First getting the 1D-20A combo and then getting 27D-48A meant that I thought we were getting a variety pack of keyboard symbols (not that there's a symbol for the SPACE bar, which made me laugh) - I did not know the # could stand in for SPACE.

This had some tough clues (URN, nice) and some real gimmes (RSTU, A DAMN). Nice debut, Nate Cardin.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

To everyone who doesn't read the comments (so you won't read this but I want to repeat someone's comment from above).

BACK IN THE DAY we used # a lot as an editing sign meaning "put a space in here." EXAMPLE: Twowords are stuck together like that. You drew the sign with one of the legs coming down between the two words.

It actually is still used it like that. In a law firms. Where they still have people who draft things and hand you hard copies toreview (see what I did there :)

Suzie Q 1:29 PM  

This was a bit of a head scratcher with that octothorpe thing.
However, once again we have too many bloggers either asking or answering questions without reading the comments first.For the most part this is a brainy crowd until the flock of bird brains show up. Some folks never learn.
@ mericans, Oh yes to the FST Dept. of Redundancy Dept.!
I wasn't fooled by the urn of joe but I didn't know that stone game.
Boy, my hand really didn't want to write refarm. That's quite a stretch. Will's pushing it some days.

will 2:53 PM  

About half my typical Thursday time. Enjoyable puzzle.

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

It would have been neat if they had clued it as "ATM machine need" instead

Will 4:32 PM  

For anyone interested. The podcast “99% invisible” had a podcast titled “Octothorpe” a few years ago. It was about the history of the symbols. Pretty interested program for anyone interested. Were it not for that I would have never heard that phrase. I’m not the Will above, but also did it in about half my normal Thursday

Nancy 4:46 PM  

None of you would happen to have a phone # to call Yahoo's email department and speak to a real human being, would you? They keep locking me out of my email. And they tell me I should use my cell phone to get back into my email!!!

They know my cell phone #. How can they possibly??? How can they even know I have a cell phone??? It's a number which almost no one in the entire world knows, which is used only for the most dire emergencies or when I am meeting up with someone that day, a phone which I never have with me at any other time, which I still haven't learned to use even though it's a "dumb" flip phone and is supposed to be easy, and which sits in my drawer for days and occasionally weeks at a time. Did my carrier, Sprint, provide the number to Yahoo. This is bizarre. This is creepy.

There's a Yahoo box you can click on that says: "I do not have access to this phone". I always click on that box, even though I'm lying through my teeth. Then I have to answer the email security questions. So I answer them. Then they say everything's good. After which I sometimes get back into my email, but just as often I can't. Even when I can, they'll lock me out again the next time and make me go through the entire process again. Help!!! Does anyone have a clue what is going on???

JC66 5:06 PM  


My son used to work at Yahoo, so I just sent him an email asking if he could help.

It was many years ago, so he may not be able to, but I thought it would be worth the try.

JC66 5:11 PM  


Today, most people use Gmail. You might want to give it a try. I believe there's a way to import your Yahoo address book, so you can send out a mass email (make sure to use the bcc option) to notify everyone of your new email.

QuasiMojo 5:35 PM  

@Nancy, I can’t help you with your email issue but I can commiserate. I got an email from Flickr saying they merged with Yahoo or done entity and asked me to save any files I had on their website or they would be deletedWell I don’t recall ever using Flickr so I was curious how I had files on it, if I did. When I clicked on the link they asked me to enter my yahoo pw. Well I don’t have yahoo either. But then I began to think that since they also own AOL then maybe I do. I still can’t figure it out. Your best bet is to open a new gmail (how did you get signed in to this blog —blue name— without one?)

Aketi 6:39 PM  

@Puzzlehparder, good luck tomorrow! I hope your knee surgeon is as great as mine was.

@Gill I, I briefly thought the same thing about Joe’s URN. Our family doesn’t bother with the URN on the mantel piece; it’s a box in the garage till they are scattered to the winds. Apparently my brother (a now retired firefighter) didn’t give us all of our parents ashes to scatter on the hill behind our childhood home. He kept some of their ashes and scattered them in Ireland in a trip with some of his firefighter buddies. I think they were transported in a plastic bag in his carryon bag.

@Mary McCarty, your comment did make it into the blog. ROFL, anytime anyone writes “don’t check” I confess that curiosity always gets the better of me.

Azzurro 9:09 PM  


PIN Number is unforgivable. There were way too many acronyms, non-words, and strings of letters. This whole puzzle just felt lazy to me, like a clever idea that needed to be developed. Seeing this makes me understand why Rex laments the lack of editing that plagues the NYT Puzzle these days.

Lou 10:08 PM  

My grandsons recently told us they needed "hashtag 2" pencils for school and asked what those were.

Anonymous 10:44 PM  

Redundancies like PIN number and ATM machines are pleonasms. They are common, e.g. tuna fish.

sanfranman59 1:01 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 3:40 4:30 0.82 4.8% Very Easy
Tue 7:28 5:14 1.43 95.2% Very Challenging
Wed 7:29 6:46 1.10 66.3% Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:41 9:41 1.00 51.2% Medium (ish)

Late to the game today, so no one will probably ever read this ... it's been a rough week ... if you're looking for somewhere to send a few prayers, I'd sure appreciate them ... onto the show ...

I lost about 1:30 fumbling around (see below), so Easy-Medium, really. Ignoring my fumbling, the solving stats in Ralph Bunker's fine online app tell me that I was 2:11 in the NW 1/3 (Easy pace), 2:20 in the middle/NE 1/3 (Easy) and 3:42 for the southern 1/3 (Medium-Challenging).

Despite totally botching the end, I really enjoyed this solve. I just couldn't close. I got OCTOTHORPEd (54A, 62A). I picked up the first # without any trouble, but simply typed 'number' as a rebus into the app since I doubted it would accept an OCTOTHORPE (not that I knew what that was at the time). I didn't notice until I got to HASH TAG (70A, 71A) that all of the symbols were OCTOTHORPEs.

At one point, I went back and changed the rebus words to #s and then a few answers later, reconsidered again, losing almost a minute of solve time in the process. Then came the actual OCTOTHORPE. I threw eCTO in there because, in spite of living in this fair city for 22 years, I'm embarrassingly inadequate in Spanish and eTRA (54D) seemed bueno to me, even though I'm perfectly aware that OTRA is 'other' (doh!).

I thought I might want to work at AMGEN (30D) back when I worked in biopharma.

Learning opportunities: Lisa SIMONE (46D) and MANCALA (5D)

Favorite moments: recalling MAD LIBS (10D) and the heroic John MUIR (52A).

This is an excellent debut. More please?

sanfranman59 1:05 AM  

@puzzlehoarder ... Best wishes with your procedure and the recovery. I got a few chills when you mentioned discarding your trove of hoarded puzzles at the firehouse. Thank you for your service to your community.

rondo 9:19 AM  

So even with all of the PIN *number* discussion nobody said that the clue should have read “ATM *machine* necessity”. Consistency counts. Found the gimmick @ DOG#CAKE. Like many others I had no idea that # = space.

Classic Bart Simpson prank call to Moe, looking for AMANDA Huggenkiss.

The SIMONES. Yeah babies.

Decent puz, though I am probably one of the few to never have used a HASH TAG.

Burma Shave 10:06 AM  


but AMANDA’s LIKE an AMORAL trash bag.
IDO know I don’t LIKE give ADAMN
for a TOKEN SNOG after her LIKE HASH TAG.


spacecraft 11:22 AM  

WAKE UP!! We're still on SUNDAY!! DO SOMETHING!!!!!

#, the final frontier. Huh? Never, ever saw or heard of the symbol used for space. A total outlier. I used to live near Jim THORPE, PA, whose original name was Mauch Chunk. JT was born there, so they say. Reading about possible origins of the OCTOTHORP[E] name was amusing. I kind of like the village surrounded by eight fields; please don't REFARM them. Ugh. Would you have to go to REFARM school to learn how?

More unfortunate fill: RRN right next to the most abominable of all, the dreaded alphabet string. CMON now, there's got to be a way to fix that. The rest of the fill isn't that bad, but yikes! there.

Six letters, popular newspaper puzzle: sudoku, of course! I was stopped just in time from writing it in when I saw that 11-down had to be BNAI. I don't like fill that separates two parts of a name and uses only one, but so far it was passable. And, the game had to be JUMBLE because of it. My lone single-letter overwrite was at #69. Wrong gender for the Spanish, I had OTRo. OMULET sounds like breakfast. Think I'll make one.

DOD, right next to honorable-mention SIMONES, is the amazing CHAKA Khan. DOODAH! Different, well-executed theme; spotty fill. Par. Would have been a clear birdie without 39/45 down.

leftcoastTAM 1:45 PM  

OCTO and THORPE were gimmes but made no sense to me as part of a revealer, so I "finished" the puzzle without using the HASHTAG # sign, though realizing what words were needed in the key squares.

At first inferred that space STATION and sharpSHOOTERS meant that the missing words had to begin with an S. And sCRUNCHER and PINs seemed to work as non-rebuses. DOG shelter seemed to work, too, but with shelterCAKE? Hardly. POUND had to be it. My dim bulb blinked with the PIN and CRUNCHER numbers as well.

No OCTOTHORPEs in sight.

Diana,LIW 3:32 PM  

Whilst I'm not in the "Rebi Yum" club, I managed to figure this out at the DOG/CAKE cross. I, too, don't get the "space" and OCTO/THORPE areas, but completed anyway. all in all, if one nust rebi, this was a good one.

Diana, LIW

thefogman 3:52 PM  

For some reason I started off in the SE corner and solved the gimmick right off the bat. Weird, because I always start in the NE corner. Anyways, after that it was pretty much smooth sailing. Almost as easy as JUMBLE, until I hit the SW corner. I got stuck there for a while until I solved REFARM the rest fell into place. Loved the gimmick. Nicely done Nate Cardin. Please pound out some more like this one.

rainforest 3:52 PM  

I might have said "PIN number" once, but I think I got away with it. However people actually do say that as often as simply "PIN".

@Spacey - #, the final frontier. Funny.

Why isn't the OCTOTHORPE on the "8" key? This is something to be concerned about.

Having edited several CHEMistry textbooks, I am familiar with # meaning "space".

Despite the alphabet run, I liked this puzzle.
@Burma - glad you're still poetizing.

Diana,LIW 3:56 PM  

PS - I did fly the deLorean to Futureland to request an update on the Syndie Button - to no avail as of yet...

Lday Di

Wooody2004 5:13 PM  

IDUNNO, but The Spy who Snogged Me sounds RACIER than The Spy Who Shagged Me.

I also didn't know SHIH about # meaning Space.

Also learned something new about OCTOTHORPodes

DMG 6:21 PM  

Enjoyed this one, even if I did stumble over that game with stones-our ser dating from 40 or so years ago, when my kids were players, is labeled " "Kalah" a word my processor is fighting all the way. Maybe a different version? I hope our firefighter is back on his feet and loaded for bear by now, I know my replacement has given me years of painless use!

strayling 7:42 PM  

IDUNNO about "The Spy Who SNOGged Me", but "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was changed to "Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles" in the UK.

A real fun puzzle, this one. I liked the hashtag gimmick well enough, but the verb/adjective tricksyness of 40A was the one that got me to groan out loud when I finally saw it.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

k for kindergarten in 2 clues

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